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Astral Doors

Astralism

Review by Gary Hill
OK, so this doesn't break any new ground musically. It's very much in the old school metal mode in the style of Dio (and the vocals are almost an exact match). It doesn't really stretch out from what the band did on their last album. The thing is, this thing is a non-stop heavy metal thrill ride. If you are a fan of classic metal, and especially Dio, you cannot miss this band. These guys are arguably the best of all new metal bands. Just like their previous release, this one is a strong contender for metal disc of the year. These guys just keep putting out quality, high energy metal that really rocks. You just can't go wrong here. In a fair world these guys would be bigger than Metallica and all the nu-metal bands.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
EVP
This one screams right out of the gate, frantic and powerful. The title stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon, the process of recording random sounds to find "ghost" voices. This one is a very meaty scorcher and shows that the band haven't lost any of the promise that was put out by their last disc. There nothing quite like starting off on a really strong note. This one includes a killer guitar solo segment, too.
Black Rain
They drop it back here to a mellower acoustic guitar mode with keys laid over that to start it off. There are also some moments of ambient sounds. Just when you think they may be ready to throw a ballad in already, this powers out into another Dio like stomper. These guys just keep up the power. The chorus on this one is particularly catchy, but it doesn't take away from the metal fury one bit. In fact, it (and the cool guitar work) just adds to the anthemic quality. They drop it to more mid-tempoed segment later with some neo-classical textures, then power out into an exceptionally tasteful, but still flashy, guitar solo. All you can say when this ends is "wow!"
London Caves
This has more of an '80's Dio sound with keyboards adding a lot to the mix. Don't take that to mean that the onslaught has ended, though. This one still rocks out, just with a bit of a different flavor.
From Satan With Love
With a title like that, this one is sure to be on the hit list for every fundamentalist Christian, but don't let that stop you. While the formula hasn't changed much here, this one doesn't suffer from any sort of sameness. The riff and arrangement are different enough from the rest of the material to keep it fresh. I particularly like the guitar solo and the layered vocal arrangement.
Fire In Our House
The chorus riff on this one is catchy as hell, and feels oh so classic. In fact, it's similar to the one from Motley Crue's "Too Fast For Love." At least I think that's the song of which it reminds me. This is yet another smoker.
Israel
They change it up a bit on this one. While it still stomps out in metal fury, it has more of an epic texture to it. It plods just a bit, but also includes some minor cool Eastern tones. The vocal arrangement on the chorus is especially cool, too.
Raiders of the Ark
A short, weird atmospheric segment starts this, but then they pound it out with more metal fury. Some cool retro sounding keyboards come over the top of this one to add a bit of texture at times. This also has one of the more tasty, neo-classically textured guitar solo segments of the disc.
Tears From a Titan
A classical sounding organ solo begins this one and carries it for nearly a minute. Then a rather prog metal like riff explodes out from there for the opening vocal lines. They drop it back to a metal, but still keyboard dominated, segment for the verse, again feeling rather like vintage Dio. It powers back out for the choruses, but drops back to this different segment for the verses. This is a nice change of pace, although it still screams.
Oliver Twist
This metal powerhouse has a bit of a blues texture at points, but otherwise doesn't differ greatly from the motif of the rest of the disc. As strong as this is, though, who cares.
Vendetta
A more scorching aggressive metal riff starts this one off. The band base the track around this motif and thereby put in another screamer. There just isn't anything weak here. The chorus on this one is particularly effective. So is the guitar solo segment.
The Green Mile
Ambient keys and effects start this and create a bit of a dramatic and mysterious tone. As the band power it out from there this is another that has a bit of a prog-like texture, ala Dream Theater due particularly to the keyboards. They drop it back to a dramatic stripped down mode for the verse, but pump it back out for the chorus. This one has some of the most powerful instrumental excursions of the whole disc. It's another winner on a CD that's full of them.
In Rock We Trust
Well, I'm not sure if I love that title or hate it. This is a quite straightforward metal cut that reminds me a bit of Dio's "We Rock." This is another that includes some purely shredding guitar work. Some crowd noise later is a bit hokey, but still works. The keys over top later lend a more classic rock sound that is quite successful, too.
Apocalypse Revealed
Starting with ambient, pretty keys an acoustic guitar mode starts this. Rather than pounding it out after this introduction, they gradually build it up for the first verse, a very powerful one. Then after the verse it does intensify out to a more furious metal motif. While the disc is full of strong material, this is pretty much without question the strongest. It's more dynamic than a lot the others, but also more powerful. It is emotional and expressive and just plain awesome. It has an epic quality to it. A processed layered vocal effect later calls to mind Ozzy's early solo work a bit. They drop it back later to the more ballad-like to carry on. The soaring melodic vocals over the top of this are especially effective. I can't imagine any way they could close the disc on a higher note.
 
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